One of the biggest criticisms facing the airlines is the repeated need for government bailouts for a privately owned industry.
- Just as Americans get excited to start taking vacations overseas again, American Airlines has announced that flights are being canceled this summer due to a labor shortage.
- The airline canceled more than 500 flights on June 19, 20 and 21 combined according to Flight Aware.
- The website, which tracks the flights taken by major airlines, also said that 760 American flights were delayed on Sunday, June 20, and nearly 800 flights were delayed on Monday.
Why are flights being canceled?
- American Airlines released a public statement saying that the reasoning behind the cancellations was due to “unprecedented weather."
- But that reasoning doesn’t seem quite right according to Captain Dennis Tajer, a 737 pilot for American Airlines and a spokesperson for the airline’s pilots union.
- Captain Tajer says that these issues are actually a result of the airline’s severe lack of pilots after the company made strategic cost-cutting moves during the pandemic.
- During the height of the lockdown, American Airlines offered pilots the opportunity to take an early retirement, an offer over 1,000 pilots took the company up on according to Captain Tajer.
- “The thing about that is that now you have to train a new pilot into that seat. Just because a captain of a 737 goes out the door, the airplane is still there, and you’ve got to find a replacement," Captain Tajer told NPR.
What about the bailout money that was supposed to help the airlines?
- Despite the airline industry receiving over US$50 billion in bailout money, American Airlines failed to have new pilots certified to fly again according to Captain Tajer.
- Pilots are required to constantly keep training in order to remain certified to fly a plane.
- For several months at the height of the pandemic, around 1,600 pilots weren’t working due to the lockdown.
- “That means that for all of that time, they were not flying regularly or training on simulators to be certified to fly like they are required to be," Captain Tajer told NPR.
When will the pilots be ready to fly again?
- In a statement to NPR, American Airlines spokeswoman Gianna Urgo said that all “previously furloughed pilots were recalled in December 2020 in accordance with the extension of the Payroll Support Program, and began returning to training and work based on operational need."
- Urgo also maintained that “pilot training remains on track" while also saying that the company is planning to have all recalled pilots “complete training by the end of June."
- Despite these claims from the company, Captain Tajer pointed out that American Airlines was being a little too optimistic.
- He believes that with the number of pilots needed to complete certifications and training, it could take up to two months for a pilot to receive approval to fly again.
- Not only that, but NPR recovered an email from American Airlines officials to employees dated April 20, in which the airline stated that they expected pilots to complete training “by the end of the summer."
What are critics saying about the American Airlines announcement?
- One of the biggest criticisms facing the airlines is the repeated need for government bailouts for a privately owned industry.
- Critics say that if American Airlines is struggling to find employees, the company should raise wages and benefits to attract more workers, especially since it received billions in government funds during the pandemic.
- In response to this criticism, some lawmakers in Philadelphia are looking to pass a bill that would require airlines to pay for health benefits for thousands of airport employees in Philadelphia.
- American Airlines has tried to block the bill, while claiming that the increased costs of providing their employees with health benefits would force the company to cut the number of international flights into the city.
- Representative Conor Lamb, Democrat of Pennsylvania, told The Philadelphia Inquirer, “We just got done bailing out this industry. When you do that, I think it gives us a say in how their workers should be treated.”
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